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"People will take priority over bikes" - rail boss explains why bicycles not welcome on Grand Départ trains

Tour de France spectators discouraged from taking bikes on local trains in Yorkshire next month

A director of Northern Rail has explained the reasoning behind the train operator urging people not to take bicycles on its services for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France next month, saying “people will take priority over bikes”

As we reported last month, Northern Rail and other local train operators in areas the race will visit said it would not be possible to reserve places for bicycles, and advised that people leave their bikes at home or risk not being able to board the train they want.

The news was greeted with disappointment by many people who had hoped to combine travel by train with a bike ride to be able to watch the Tour.

In a letter to the Yorkshire Post, Alan Chaplin, service delivery director, set out the reasons for its decision. He wrote:

It was interesting to read customer feedback on the rail industry’s approach to carrying bikes when the Grand Départ comes to Yorkshire in July (The Yorkshire Post, May 23).

The race symbolises everything that is exciting and brilliant about cycling; the speed of the riders, the thrill of the crowd, the sprint to the finish.

We understand this and have worked hard to develop a plan which will allow us to carry thousands of passengers to spectator points around the region.

For that reason, people will take priority over bikes.

Adding dozens of bikes to our trains would not only reduce the on-board space for spectators but also jeopardise the tight timetable we will be running to, as passengers put on, secure and take bikes off busy trains.

Some have asked why we haven’t added additional carriages to carry bikes but we are restricted on the size of trains we run by the lengths of platforms.

We believe the majority of our customers would be happier with additional passenger carriages as opposed to a carriage for bikes.

In partnership with 
organisers and other train operators, we’re asking cyclists 
to take a sensible approach, think before travelling and try to avoid bringing bikes onto busy trains.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) decided against enforcing an outright ban on bikes on services around the Grand Départ weekend from 4-7 July, saying last month: “It is normal practice under franchise arrangements agreed with the Department for Transport to suspend cycle carriage on trains at times of expected exceptional passenger congestion, particularly for large sporting events.

“It is in recognition of the importance of cycle-rail passengers and of the nature of the Tour de France that train operating companies have chosen to maintain carriage during the event.”

But local train operator First TransPennine Express is advising against travelling with bikes, telling them that “the Tour de France is a spectator event, and cycle carriage is not advised due to the busy nature of the event, stations and services.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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